The Weiss family is the archetypical Hollywood dynasty: father Stafford is an analyst and coach, who has made a fortune with his self-help manuals; mother Cristina mostly looks after the career of their son Benjie, 13, a child star. One of Stafford’s clients, Havana, is an actress who dreams of shooting a remake of the movie that made her mother, Clarice, a star in the 60s. Clarice is dead now and visions of her come to haunt Havana at night… Adding to the toxic mix, Benjie has just come off a rehab program he joined when he was 9 and his sister, Agatha, has recently been released from a sanatorium where she was treated for criminal pyromania and befriended a limo driver Jerome who is also an aspiring actor.
Maps to the Stars is a Canadian-American satirical drama film directed by David Cronenberg and starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, and Evan Bird. The screenplay was written by Bruce Wagner, who had written a book entitled Dead Stars based on the Maps to the Stars script, after initial plans for making the film with Cronenberg fell through.
About the Story
Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in Los Angeles and employs limousine driver Jerome (Robert Pattinson) to take her to the site of the former house of Benjie Weiss (Evan Bird), a child star. Agatha has severe burns to her face and body, and is seen taking a multitude of medication. Benjie visits a child suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the hospital, however the girl later dies. Benjie’s father, Dr. Stafford Weiss is a TV psychologist who is treating aging actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) for abuse she suffered at the hands of her deceased mother, also an actress. Havana’s agent struggles to get Havana a role in a remake of her mother’s film Stolen Waters.
Benjie and his mother, Cristina negotiates a role for Benjie in a film as his comeback after drug rehabilitation. At the suggestion of Carrie Fisher, Havana hires Agatha as a personal assistant, whom she met on Twitter. Agatha continues to see Jerome, and a romance forms, though Jerome appears resistant at first. Stafford learns through Havana that Agatha has returned to L.A, and it is revealed Agatha is their daughter – however they shun her completely, with Cristina breaking down at the thought of Agatha contacting Benjie.
Using Havana’s role in Stolen Waters to gain access to the production lot, Agatha visits Benjie on set and it is revealed she is schizophrenic, and that the burns she suffered were from a fire she lit in her parent’s house whilst they were asleep. She indicates she has returned from a sanatorium to make amends. When Stafford learns Agatha visited Benjie, he visits her in a rage and warns her to leave L.A.
Benjie breaks his sobriety, getting high on GHB, and accidentally shoots the dog of his only friend. Agatha visits her mother, Cristina to make amends. It is revealed that Cristina and Stafford are brother and sister, making Agatha and Benjie children of incest – though Cristina insists it was unbeknownst to them at the time. Stafford comes home, and when Agatha reveals she knows about their familial relations, Stafford violently beats her, until Cristina intervenes. During the altercation, Agatha steals Cristina’s wedding ring. On set, Benjie is haunted by the girl from the hospital, and during a hallucination he strangles his young co-star. The child survives, though Benjie is now to be replaced in the film.
Havana requests Jerome as a driver and seduces him in the driveway of her house, as Agatha watches from the window. Havana enters the house and berates Agatha for her poor performance at work. Agatha beats Havana to death with one of her awards.
Stafford returns home to see Cristina on fire outside near the pool. Though not explicitly stated, it is suggested this is an act of self-immolation after the series of traumatic events leading to Cristina’s depressed state. Benjie and Agatha reunite and perform an impromptu wedding ceremony with their parents’ wedding rings. In order to commit suicide, they take an extreme amount of Agatha’s pills together, before lying down to watch the stars.
About the Characters
Julianne Moore as Havana Segrand
A very famous but aging and quickly-fading actress, living in the shadow of her legendary movie-star mother and feeling abused by her. Moore based the character on “an amalgam of people I’ve known and observed. She is someone who lives completely isolated in this make-believe world. She doesn’t really have a family and she’s still very angry with her mother because she feels she was abused. She’s always lived in her mother’s shadow, and in her mind, it’s all a kind of mixed-up, Freudian mess.”
Mia Wasikowska as Agatha Weiss
The badly-scarred and estranged pyromaniac daughter of the Weiss family who takes a job as Havana’s personal assistant, while waiting for the opportunity to make amends with her family. Wasikowska said, “I love Agatha because she’s dark inside but at the same time in a lot of ways she has this very positive outlook. There’s something very sweet and sad about this girl who, in the midst of these celebrity-obsessed parents, and this troubled past, really just wants to connect with them. They’ve totally rejected her, but in a way, she’s desperately trying to mimic their lives. She’s desperately trying to find her identity.” She further added, “She has the gloves she wears over her burns, the facial scar, and all these rituals with the poem and the pills she takes, it’s all very distinct to who she is.”
John Cusack as Dr. Stafford Weiss
The head of the Weiss family, a TV psychologist with a number of high-profile celebrity clients, and immensely egoistic about the success of his son Benjie. Stafford exploits people’s emotions and takes advantage of them. Stafford Weiss and his wife Cristina are brother and sister; they were separated at birth and discovered their relation after meeting in college and becoming a couple. According to Cusack, “He sees himself as a healer. He’s part Tony Robbins, part Reiki Master, part shrink. But his son is the real star—he’s a massive teen star of Bieberesque proportions.” Describing the script he said, “It was the most savage destruction of Hollywood fame and secrets and that whole toxic brew that I’d ever seen.”
Robert Pattinson as Jerome Fontana
A limousine driver and struggling actor who wants to be a successful screenwriter. Jerome is inspired by Bruce Wagner, who, at the time when he conceived the idea for this story, was himself a struggling actor and writer working as a limo driver. Pattinson described the character as most sane and ordinary but like every LA dreamer in the story and said, “Jerome would never accept that he is just a limo driver. I think he feels he’s just waiting for his break. And yet, he’s seemingly the only one in this story who’s not going insane—or who isn’t a ghost.” And about the script he added that “It’s really about people who lie to themselves – right up until the end.”
Olivia Williams as Cristina Weiss
Ambitious and controlling, she manages the career of her son. Cristina Weiss and her husband Stafford are sister and brother; they were separated at birth and discovered their relation after meeting in college and becoming a couple. According to Williams, “She is a very ambitious woman and we get to see her downfall from the very heights of her power. She operates in a world where someone could be the nastiest person on earth and make your life hell, but you might still want them in your movie because they’ll make you money.”
Sarah Gadon as Clarice Taggart
An iconic Hollywood movie star who died in a fire and appears as a ghost to her daughter Havana. Cronenberg said that “it’s such a lovely, unusual role, because she’s simply this ghostly memory.” Gadon said, “I really want to do the film because I thought it was a critique about contemporary Hollywood. And, specifically, of a woman’s place in Hollywood.”
Evan Bird as Benjie Weiss
A teen sensation and controversial star, who is trying to get his career on track after his stint at rehab while simultaneously battling demons from his past. Cronenberg was not sure that any child actor could play Benjie’s character successfully until he saw Bird in the TV series The Killing. Bird said about his character, “[H]e doesn’t really have love and yet he doesn’t really have limitations, either. So he’s searching for both of those things. He’s making way too much money, he’s being taken advantage of by his parents, and he’s really screwed up.”
Maps to the Stars
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Starring: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Evan Bird, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, Jennifer Gibson, Niamh Wilson, Clara Pasieka
Screenplay by: Bruce Wagner
Production Design by: Carol Spier
Cinematography by: Peter Suschitzky
Film Editing by: Ronald Sanders
Costume Design by: Denise Cronenberg
Set Decoration by: Sandy Lindstedt, Peter P. Nicolakakos
Art Direction by: Edward Bonutto, Elinor Rose Galbraith
Music by: Howard Shore
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong disturbing violence and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug material.
Studio: Entertainment One
Release Date: February 27, 2015